A Fetish for Change?
I sometimes think that people go overboard with the whole “life is change” thing. There are so many religions, modes of operation, slogans, mottoes, blog posts, platitudes, proverbs, and all around contemplation, (and sometimes pontification) over the inevitability of change, and I sometimes doubt not only it’s usefulness, but it’s accuracy.
True. A lot of things in our life have the potential to change. For good or for bad. But to begin with, does the high level of potential for a thing mean that it is inevitable? Is the fact that something could occur mean that we should accept “constant change” as a world view? I say no, because that is just inviting instability into many aspects of our lives. It deprives us of any degree of a blueprint for moving forward if we are not careful. We become reeds in the wind of time, producing whatever whistled tune the world decides to play for us.
What’s worse about it, I think we deprive ourselves of certain dedications, goals, loves, if we begin everything we embark upon with “this is only temporary, no matter how good people think it is.”
Way to rally the troops, there. If that’s your attitude, go join a Kansas cover band. (Think about it…)
I’m on a second floor apartment. I have faith that I am not going to fall through the floor. It has been inspected. Maintained. I see the landlord around here all the time. Every indication is that I have every right to assume the floor is going to stay under me throughout the entire duration of my living in this domicile. One day, this building, and this floor beneath me, and even the city in which the building sits, will not exist. This I grant you. But the idea that the floor will support my weight as I live here is not something I find subject to any practical change. It is a fact. A constant from the perspective of a life, if not from the perspective of the entire Universe.
Some will no doubt point out that I can never know. There may be a change that makes the floor fall out from under me, and maybe even kill me in the process. And to this physical possibility I yield. Somebody could chuck a bomb at this building. A tornado could come through and rip it apart. A rare earthquake. Each of those would cause obvious change. But does that mean I should live my life in this apartment each day saying to myself,
“The next step I take in this apartment could be the one that collapses the floor. I might as well embrace the possibility of falling to my death. I should learn to be excited by the process of tumbling in a heap of rubble and being buried in same one day. I should appreciate it, because life is change, after all. You can’t count on anything.”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel that embracing the possibility that the floor could cave in is a prescription for a happy life.
Yet people apply this rationale to things other than my admittedly extreme example. They don’t aim for job security, or they don’t make lasting relationships their goal, because, “everything is change, and the more I accept that, the happier I will be.”
Really? You don’t think you might be avoiding the emotional commitment of establishing something “permanent” in your life by saying these things?
Maybe the very fact that there is so much change that we cannot control in our lives is why we should all work even harder to establish something that is more resistant to change. Something that can withstand at least the storms that we know are likely to happen in a day, or a lifetime. And as for the highly unlikely scenarios, we can’t prepare for them to any great degree anyway. So why not shoot for something permanent?
And permanent things do exist, when taking from the perspective of a human and not a god. Long lasting marriages. People that live in the same house their entire lives. True friendships. Those lucky enough to find and follow their callings. These things I feel are in fact examples of permanence, in so far as everything that is alive at some point will of course die. I just don’t think that the fact I will one day die an earthly death signifies that life is nothing but change.
To embrace positive changes as we seek to improve our lot is one thing. So is being prepared for the possibilities of bad changes knocking us off course. But both of these concepts differ from this notion of,
“The hell with it. I’m not going to fall in love with anything, because everything constantly changes anyway. Whatever.”
There is nothing wrong with building something to last. There is nothing wrong with looking for things that are long lasting, or even permanent in our lives. Working for those things. Struggling, even dying for them, if needs must. And when such things fail it’s okay to mourn them, instead of pretending it doesn’t bother you because “everything changes”.
I say things are always happening in life. Whether or not that has to mean change all the time is to a great degree up to us.
What about you? What is your take on change? Do you head into battle assuming it will happen, or merely accept it if it does? Is anything permanent from the human perspective? Does embracing change mean that setting goals and keeping relationships is difficult or meaningless? Let me know.
“Changes aren't permanent — but change is.” — Rush: “Tom Sawyer”
To me, there are two components to the concept of “embracing change.” Part of it is a willingness to accept things as they come to you, whether positive or negative, and to deal with whatever the new landscape is. The second aspect is actively pursuing and cultivating what you want to do and be; and again, accepting whatever the outcome may be.
I think you're correct to make a distinction between change and instability.
And bravo to joecollins for quoting Rush!
You point out the distinction very well, Jake. Thanks for that. And for the Rush quotation, Joe, which actually applies quite well to this post.